Critiquing neo-colonial conceptions of ‘vulnerability’ through Kaona in Mary Kawena Pūku’i’s “The Pounded Water of Kekela”

Barnes, EM ORCID: 2022, 'Critiquing neo-colonial conceptions of ‘vulnerability’ through Kaona in Mary Kawena Pūku’i’s “The Pounded Water of Kekela”' , Transmotion, 8 (1) , pp. 98-128.

[img] PDF - Submitted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only

Download (307kB) | Request a copy
PDF - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

Download (203kB) | Preview


Recent scholarship outlines in no uncertain terms that the Pacific Island regions are already experiencing the effects of climate change (George 113; Bryant-Tokalau 3; Showalter, Lόpez-Carr and Ervin 50; McLeod et al, 5). It is Indigenous women in the Pacific Islands that experience the effects of climate change most acutely, however, due to the socio-economic conditions that colonialism has produced. Due to these conditions, Pacific Island women are categorised as vulnerable (McLeod et al. “Raising Voices” 180; Aipira, Kidd and Morioka 227). In this paper, I argue that the colonial structures that produce these conditions of ‘vulnerability’ are the same conditions that prevent the voices of Pacific Island women from being heard within climate change strategies. I make the case that ‘vulnerability’ has now been co-opted to suit a neo-colonist agenda that maintains imperialist, capitalist and patriarchal modes of control within climate change responses. To intervene in these discourses of ‘vulnerability’, this article provides the first literary analysis of Mary Kawena Pūku’i’s Hawaiian mo’olelo or story “The Pounded Water of Kekela” to demonstrate how Pacific Island women and epistemologies are central to mitigating and responding to drought. By examining how Pūku’i deploys kaona, or metaphor, in her drought narrative, this paper demonstrates how the navigation and combatting of environmental disaster is constructed as female and as expressions of mana wahine, or “feminine spiritual power” (McDougall 27). Through using Hawaiian epistemologies to analyse Pūku’i’s representations of powerful women, I emphasise how Hawaiian mo’olelo undermine neo-colonial constructions of ‘vulnerability’ and foreground the centrality of Indigenous knowledges in responding to climate change.

Item Type: Article
Schools: Schools > School of Arts & Media > Arts, Media and Communication Research Centre
Journal or Publication Title: Transmotion
Publisher: Transmotion Journal
Depositing User: EM Barnes
Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2021 11:18
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2022 09:33

Actions (login required)

Edit record (repository staff only) Edit record (repository staff only)